I fist met Rory Staunton when he was a baby. He is the son of Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton.
Ciaran is from County Mayo and Orlaith from Louth. Ciaran is the co-founder of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in the USA and has been active in support of the undocumented and lobbying in the US government to regularise their status. In the early 1990’s he was also a key activist in winning support within Irish America for the peace process.
When I first travelled to the USA on my 48 hour Clinton visa to New York in February 1994 Ciaran was there. Later after the IRA cessation he was intimately involved in the planning of the visits by Sinn Féin delegations to the USA.
In those first post cessation visits the media interest was enormous and Irish America wanted to hear what we had to say. I remember on one trip in which we did 14 cities coast to coast in 14 days.
Ciaran never stopped. He was constantly planning, organising meetings, transport and hotels. He exhausted us.
I got to know him very well in that time and his soon to be wife Orlaith. When they married the wedding and reception were held in County Cavan and we were all there to celebrate it with them.
Rory was their first born. Ciaran brought him along to our hotel in New York for us to meet. He was a proud, doting father and Orlaith was an attentive loving mother.
In the subsequent years I watched Rory grow and grow and grow. I met him in Ireland and the USA - the last time in Drogheda during the general election. At 12 years old Rory was five foot nine with a bright mop of red hair. He was an enthusiastic, intelligent, politically astute young person. Like me one of his heroes was Rosa Parks – who refused to sit at the back of the bus. He was enthralled by John F Kennedy’s idealism and by Barak Obama’s desire to achieve change. He was also very proud of the contribution his father and his uncle – publisher Niall O Dowd – made to the Irish peace process.
Rory also wanted to fly. He was in awe of the successful ditching by pilot Chesley B Sullenberger of his passenger airline in the Hudson River. And at 12 years of age he succeeded in persuading Ciaran and Orlaith to let him learn to fly.
And then on Wednesday March 28th he fell playing basketball in school and cut his arm. Overnight he became feverish, vomited and developed a pain in his leg. He saw his doctor and she advised that he go to Langone Medical Center where he was diagnosed with an upset stomach and dehydration. He was given fluids and Tylenol and sent home.
However Rory’s condition grew worse.
At the same time results from blood tests that had been taken revealed that he was producing neutrophilsand bands, white blood cells, at an abnormal rate and which suggested that he had a bacterial infection. The family were not told and essential warning signs were missed by the doctors in the hospital.
Rory was taken back to the hospital where he was put into the intensive care unit. His condition deteriorated and on Sunday April 1st four days after his school accident Rory died from septic shock.
The family was devastated. I rang Ciaran. His grief was plain. Rory was brought home to Ireland to be buried with his grandmother in Drogheda. I attended the funeral. It was a deeply sad, tragic and moving celebration of a young life.
But Ciaran and Orlaith were not prepared to ignore the failings in the medical system. Two weeks ago I was sitting in my Dáil office and realised in the course of a meeting that the voice in the background was Ciaran. He was being interviewed on the RTE news about Rory’s loss and the family’s demand for a change to the law.
Ciaran and Orliath are campaigning for ‘Rory’s Law’ to be introduced to ensure that parents have full access to blood and lab tests done and that as soon as these are available that they will be assessed by a doctor.
They believe that had Rory’s results been acted on he would have received the antibiotics needed to save his life. They also believe that ‘Rory’s Law’ can save the lives of countless others.
Ciaran and Orliath have my support and I would urge everyone to join with them in their efforts to ensure that no other parents have to go through the trauma they have experienced.